Africa’s oldest female Tusker has died in Kenya aged 65, wildlife authorities said on discovering its skeleton.
The elephant named Dida is a famous matriach at the Tsavo East National Park. It was famous for her long tusks.
“A matriach has rested,” the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) announced, describing her as “possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker and a Matriarch.”
Pictures of Dida’s skeleton that was discovered deep inside Tsavo show that she must have died months ago.
KWS said Dida died from natural causes due to old age having lived a full life expectancy of elephants in the wild to about 60-65 years old, dismissing reports that she could have died of starvation due to the drought that is ravaging many parts of the country.
“Dida was truly an iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of many decades worth of knowledge. She shepherd her herd through many seasons and challenging times. She served as both the subject to various documentaries and an iconic tourist attraction,” KWS said in mourning Dida.
News of Dida’s death was broken by Tsavo East National Park’s official Twitter account on Tuesday morning.
“Tsavo has suffered the loss of a best-loved matriarch and the greatest repository of many decades worth of knowledge. ‘Dida the matriarch’ died naturally of old age. To us allowing an elephant to live its full life is something we are very proud of,” it said.
female elephants often live in close-knit families with young calves at their side, while bulls tend to be more solitary.
Conservation group Tsavo Trust eulogised Dida as a “true embodiment of an iconic cow” who will be remembered by future generations of elephants.
“She will be better remembered… from the lessons they learnt as they watched their matriarch pass her careful judgement,” it wrote on Facebook.
“An elephant never forgets.”
Dida’s death comes barely a month after another iconic elephant died in Samburu, an arid expanse that like most of northern Kenya is suffering the driest conditions in 40 years.
A mother of seven calves, Monsoon survived being shot five times during a rampant poaching crisis about a decade ago that sent Africa’s wild elephant population into freefall.
Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, an unprecedented climatic event that has pushed millions across the Horn of Africa into extreme hunger.
Older elephants and young calves are the first to succumb to prolonged drought, experts say.
Kenyan broadcaster NTV on Monday posted a video of villagers in central Kenya watching “helplessly” as an elephant died from extreme hunger.